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Indian classical dances - Unity in diversity!
For ages India has had a very rich and vibrant heritage of both folk and classical dances. The major classical dance forms, though having evolved in different regions of the country, appeal to both our emotions and aesthetic senses.
As someone said, 'Dance is Emotion in Motion!' The common bond between the different classical dances, in spite of their evolving in different regions of the country, is the ancient treatise Natya Shastra by Bharat Muni and other later writers.

While origins of Kathak dance can be traced to a hoary past in North India, Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh patronised this dance form in a big way. Some movies and documentaries would make us believe, that he himself used to dance in his court, playing the role of Krishna.

Manipuri was more prevalent in the North East. Odissi evolved in the temples of the Oriya region. Kuchipudi is said to have evolved in the region of Krishna district. Bharatnatyam, which evolved as temple dance in southern India, unfortunately was shunned as a Devadasi art form.

It was finally, Mrs. Rukmini Arundale, who realised its aesthetic values and against much opposition, gave Bharatnatyam the acceptance and dignity it deserved as a classical dance form.

Mohiniattam (dance of the Enchantress) and Kathakali classical dances evolved in the Kerala region. Maharaja Swati Tirunal, himself a brilliant musical composer of 19th century revived Mohiniattam. Kathakali, known for its very elaborate make ups, is normally an all night affair relating mythological tales.

Though these dances have their regional origins, they are learned by youngsters from different other regions, too. This increasing appreciation of arts of other regions is a very encouraging aspect of mutual cultural assimilation.

Recently, we had the pleasure of savouring a dance rendition of Kalidasa's Ritu Samhara, a poem containing elaborate imagery of nature in the six seasons, and the longings of the 'nayika' and her forlorn partner.

Earlier, Smt. Lata Surendra had received a grant from Human Resources Ministry for evolving a dance rendition of this masterpiece of Kalidasa, to be presented at Nehru Centre, Worli, Mumbai. Titled Ritu Vilas, it was brilliantly choreographed by Smt. Lata, the doyen of classical dancers in Mumbai.

The dance cast comprised dancers and styles of all the seven dance forms. That they danced in perfect harmony, in spite of their different genres was a tribute, both to Smt. Lata's genius, the music chosen - and the overarching feelings of being one, though different.

On the one hand, these seven dance forms, though emanating from different corners of the country, were bound together by the ancient Natya Shastra. The grand finale embodied the spirit which pervades our country, that our strength is compounded by the many colours of our rainbow - that our national strength lies in 'Unity in Diversity'! India's soft power!

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